by Terry Bellamak
It is difficult not to become so accustomed to the dysfunctional status quo around reproductive health care that we lose sight of how messed up it really is.
It is not sensible or reasonable that pregnant patients need certifying consultants to sign off on abortions, women need prescriptions to access oral contraception that has been proven extremely safe over 40 years, women who want permanent sterilisation are denied because they have not borne children, students are told not to have sex because women are like licked lollipops.
What would the world look like if reproductive health care were treated as regular health care, women were treated as adults, and every person was universally acknowledged as owning their own body?
- Oral contraceptives would be sitting on pharmacy shelves, available without a prescription, and reasonably priced or subsidised.
- The morning-after pill would be sitting on pharmacy shelves and available without a prescription, and reasonably priced or subsidised.
- All long-acting reversible contraceptives (I.e. IUDs and implants) would be available to everyone who wanted it, fully subsidised.
- Sterilisation would be available to every adult who wanted it, without any other approval required.
- There would be no waiting periods, no time limits, no signoffs, no need to give reasons, and no time-wasting scramble to get an abortion.
- Ultrasounds would only be given if they were medically necessary.
- Health practitioners who tried to tell patients abortion would give them breast cancer and mental illness would be laughed at and then sacked for incompetence.
- Any doctor or nurse practitioner would be able to prescribe pills for a medical abortion, and after giving them instructions, hand the pills to the patient for them to take at home when they are ready.
- Doctors and nurse practitioners would be trained to perform surgical abortions in regular health-care settings like clinics and doctors’ offices, not just hospitals.
- Late term abortions would not require the signoff of any authority, like a medical ethics committee or a certifying consultant, once doctor and patient decided it was necessary.
- Students would receive fact-based, age-appropriate education about relationships, consent, sex, contraception, and abortion throughout their school years.
- Health practitioners who refused to provide treatment or medicines that were a normal part of their specialty on the basis of their conscience would be disciplined by their licencing body.
- Health practitioner licencing bodies would condemn and punish discrimination against women patients who need reproductive health care like contraception and abortion.
This list sounds like science fiction. But if it were reality, the health system would save money, people’s lives would be made easier, women would find it easier to succeed economically, and our country would be richer and happier.